Struggling Against Lack of Faith

‘Bahya ibn Pakuda wrote in Duties of the Heart (Hovot ha-Levavot), quoting the words of the hasid to the returnees from battle: “you have returned from the minor war…, now prepare yourselves for the great war.”’

(I originally wrote this as a comment on Peter Alschitz’s Facebook post on what to do if you suffer from a lack of simple faith)

This is not a new question-Rabbeinu Bahya wrote the above 1000 years ago.

It’s not a trivial question. Nor a personal one. Events on the political stage parallel and interact with the struggles we fight within our souls and communities. Our beliefs determine our actions, which determine the course of history. Our faith is the pivot around which the whole world ultimately swings.

The struggle to believe is the primary one of our day, because we live in a Modernist (or postmodernist) age, where belief is the biggest deficit, and the Navi said it would happen:

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:

“And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.”

The best way I know to gain faith is to act as though you have it, in as many aspects of your life as you can. This is a meta-faith: acting in faith that faith will appear.

As Rav Yechezkel Rapoport said, for women it’s easier to naturally believe in whatever the dominant belief is of the group to which they’ve attached their hearts. They have less struggle internalizing it. However, without struggle and dispute and strife, there is no progress or growth (see Rav Shagar’s quotes of Rebbe Nahman in the linked article.) We thank G-d for not having made us women because He gave us more challenges, which present more dimensions in which to grow and progress. The ultimate dimension in our time is faith, which is supported by, clothed by and shaped by actions (which themselves are produced by faith.)

In short, I hate to find myself referring to the Tanya (which I once read as part of a bet with Rav Yechezkel), but there is a piece in there on what someone should do when he suffers from a consciousness of how far away he is from faith and G-d. The Tanya says to rejoice that you are capable of suffering from this, because it is already a high level (I’m paraphrasing.) I always mention this to mock Ashkenazim-that their greatest joy is to enjoy their suffering. But in this case, it’s very relevant. Suffering from lack of faith implies a struggle to find faith, which is the highest struggle and offers the most opportunities for growth.

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